Pleural mesothelioma is not the only type of malignant mesothelioma. But it is the most prevalent of the three main types of malignant mesothelioma, all of which are linked to asbestos exposure. About 2,500 new cases of pleural mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
Mesothelioma gets its name because it develops in the mesothelium, a membrane that lines many of the body’s organs. In pleural mesothelioma, the disease develops in the pleura; a sheet like-lining that surrounds the lungs and lines the inside of the chest wall.
Although it is not the same as lung cancer, the symptoms – intense pain, shortness of breath and overwhelming fatigue – are similar. And the outcome – a slow painful death is tragically the same. .
So we feel it is fitting to recognize here at Mesothelioma Circle that November is national lung cancer awareness month. We were especially moved by a recent CNN piece about the stigma experienced by lung cancer victims. In addition to suffering from their disease, the article said, they are also made to feel ashamed because the strong association between lung cancer and smoking leads people to assume that they brought the disease on themselves.
But the fact is that 60% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are in people who have never smoked or stopped smoking decades ago. Other causes, including air pollution, are now suspected as playing a major role.
“For the first time, the World Health Organization recently declared air pollution as a leading cause of lung cancer. In short, anyone with lungs — anyone who breathes — can get lung cancer,” the article by Dr. Lecia V. Sequist, a medical oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the LUNGevity Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board.
But the stigma associated with lung cancer translates into a much lower level of funding for lung cancer research than for other types of cancer, according to Dr. Sequist, even though it is responsible for more than 25% of all cancer deaths.
This imbalance could have adverse consequences for mesothelioma patients as well as lung cancer patients. The research imperiled by lack of funding involves treatments that also hold promise for mesothelioma. One for example uses the immune system to target lung cancer. Some patients on this therapy now experience long remissions that would have been unheard of 10 years ago. But the progress of these and other experimental treatments need adequate funding to move forward.
Dr. Sequist urges all of us to spread the word about the need for lung cancer research and by rejecting the tendency to blame lung cancer patients for their disease.
As mesothelioma patients, these seem like logical ways to help not just in November but always.